Hotels chief to become purchasing consultant

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Indy Politics
A SENIOR executive with Forte, the hotels group, is to be appointed to help health authorities improve their purchasing of NHS services for their patients. Dennis Hearn, until recently group managing director and deputy chief executive of Forte, is to be appointed as a special consultant to the National Health Service.

The announcement by Brian Mawhinney, the Minister of State for Health, to be made today at a conference on purchasing, is likely to be attacked by Labour. It is part of Dr Mawhinney's drive to stimulate the internal market in the NHS, in which health authorities buy services from NHS trust hospitals or the private sector for patients on the NHS.

Dr Mawhinney will tell the conference that improving purchasing skills will provide better value for money for the NHS and improve services to patients, but Labour wants to scrap the internal market. He will also announce an awards scheme offering up to pounds 5,000 to NHS workers and doctors for purchasing initiatives.

The announcements will be controversial. Labour has alleged the split between purchasers and providers in the NHS has led to a two-tier system in which some NHS patients are being given priority over others. But Dr Mawhinney is keen to sharpen the purchasing system to force down costs in NHS hospitals and to deliver a more responsive service to patients.

Health authorities will be warned to take more account of local opinions before changing their services.

A survey has found that although 57 per cent were carrying out acceptable consultation, 22 per cent of authorities were failing to consult widely enough on the services they provide.

Dr Mawhinney will warn the authorities that ministers may not approve changes to services, unless they can prove that they have consulted the public.